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The Country Club property in Escondido remains unused since its purchase more than a year ago. Developers want to build 430 homes on the site of the former golf course. Photo by Ellen Wright
The Country Club property in Escondido remains unused since its purchase more than a year ago. Developers want to build 430 homes on the site of the former golf course. Photo by Ellen Wright
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Diaz backs development plan

Deputy mayor calls endorsement a compromise

ESCONDIDO — Michael Schlesinger’s development company, Stuck in the Rough LLC, is aptly named.

The Escondido Country Club was purchased by the Beverly Hills-based company in 2013 and the property has been stuck in the rough since then.

Earlier this week, Deputy Mayor Olga Diaz announced she is backing Schlensinger’s initiative, which will be on the ballot in November, to develop the defunct golf course into a 430-home development with 25 percent open space.

Diaz endorsed the Lakes Specific Plan, Open Space and Revitalization Initiative or Proposition H, calling it a compromise.

“It provides a path to resolving an expensive legal dispute, offering a mix of community amenities, open space and new residential housing,” said Diaz.

When Schlesinger first purchased the golf course, it was losing more than $35,000 a month, he said. Membership was at an all time low, with 120 members, and only half were using the golf course.

The 50-year-old course also needed a lot of upgrades, including a sprinkler system.

“They were watering 110 acres by hand,” said Schlesinger.

He said he spent four to five months trying to decide whether or not the property, which has declared bankruptcy three times by different owners over the years, could become economically viable. After deciding it wasn’t, he proposed the building of 430 homes.

In August 2013, the City Council unanimously voted to turn the property into permanent open space after residents surrounding the golf course started a movement to halt development of the property. They called themselves ECCHO (Escondido Country Club Homeowners Organization).

Schlesinger then began litigation against the city, because, he said, his property became worthless.

“It’s an extremely complicated issue. You can’t just take the property and say, ‘OK, it was zoned like this, now it’s going to be zoned like this,’ and not assume there’s a bunch of cascading issues,” said Schlesinger.

Schlesinger has spent $5,000 to $6,000 developing 12 separate plans for the property. He said he tried to reach out to four different Home Owner Associations and to ECCHO but was not allowed to present at their meetings.

He believes his plan will benefit more of the community because 25 percent of the 110-acre development will be facilities meant for public use. The plan includes an Olympic-sized swimming pool, tennis courts, lakes and trails.

Schlesinger said that he is open to the idea of a restaurant or anything else, which is why he’s asked residents to attend his CARE (Creating A Revitalized Escondido) meetings.

The property was zoned for 600 additional homes and he believes his plan is “truly a compromise,” since he’s only planning to build 430 homes and 25 percent is going to be space available to the public.

Some parts of the initiative have not been decided. He said he hopes to form partnerships with the city and nonprofits like the Boys & Girls Club, and to maintain the pool and to hire a lifeguard, if it passes in November.

As part of the plan, he will also contribute $1 million to the city to be used to purchase land to be designated as permanent open space.

Residents were upset with Schlesinger after chicken manure was spread over the course this April. He said it was a huge mistake and it was cleaned immediately.

He also said it was worth noting that he was never fined for the ordeal.

If the initiative passes, the litigation from Schlesinger towards the city would wind down. The city would likely still be on the hook for legal fees but the damages owed would be minimal, said Schlesinger.

“The worst thing for anyone is that this property just sits there like this for generations to come, fought over with legal fees, no economic value, all the homes surrounding it are plummeting and no one can use the space. That’s not beneficial for anyone.”


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Tom Ortiz August 21, 2014 at 1:06 pm

I’m sad to hear the announcement of Olga Diaz in support of Prop H. While I am open to the idea of developing the land, the current proposal is not the right one for that community. I’ve been to a “CARE” meeting which turned out to be a sales pitch for the specific plan as-is (Mr. Schlesinger was not present) and had nothing to do with being open to other ideas and/or alternatives. To say the area was zoned for 600 homes and the revised 430-home plan is a true compromise is laughable. My guess is that the 430 number is very close to the maximum of what is logistically possible anyway. And there is the historic issue of the original development which allowed, through conditional permits I assume, for the existing residential parcels to be much smaller than the 7,000 sq. ft. as required under R-1-7 in the city’s general plan in order to offset the open space used to accommodate the golf course. To go back now and say the density of 430 additional homes is possible on what was conditionally agreed to be left open creates even more problems. I don’t know what the right plan is for the property, but I do feel strongly that the current proposal is the wrong one. I’d encourage people to vote no on Prop H and hope that the developer is still willing to truly engage a real public outreach effort in order to come up whit a plan that benefits everyone.

Jim Brock August 23, 2014 at 11:48 am

While it may be the best solution , proposition H is the only viable option that has been put on the table. Furthermore, it’s a cap of 430 homes and I believe the city will work with developer to come up with a number of homes that addresses those concerns. ECCHO has been a unreliable counter party who just calls names and plays on people’s emotions with NO plan

Susan August 21, 2014 at 12:53 pm

This proves that money can buy anything. He warned the residents that he would by a council . . .

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